American Parser

Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived

Now Barney Gets Frank


KeepHealthPlan-CharlotteObserver

 

Well, Barney Frank, recently retired Democratic U.S. House Representative from Massachusetts, now boldly proclaims that Obama lied when selling Obamacare to the American public, telling us that we could keep our current coverage if we liked it (Barney Frank ‘Appalled’ by Obama Administration: “They Just Lied To People”).

First thoughts: Really? Barney and I agree on something? Can anyone out there please confirm for me that the sky has not cracked, and that Jesus has, in fact, not returned?

Second thoughts: Now that he’s got no skin in the game, Barney wants to get religious. Barney Frank’s vote for the Affordable Care Act makes him no less complicit in that lie than Obama’s signing of it into law. He lobbied for it just like Obama did, selling something to the American public he had not digested and didn’t understand, because that’s what he was told to do.

This underscores the reason that lobbyists, who, with their employers’ lawyers, draft most bills of consequence these days, should be outlawed in Washington, D.C. Bills should be debated and voted piecemeal, point by point, and/or executive line item veto power be given to the President.

Would that slow the legislative process down? Sure it would. Would it be a bad thing if the U.S. Congress passed fewer laws that more Americans could better understand? Nope.

The ACA, the version that President Obama signed into law, with riders (click here),  is actually 974 pages long. The table of contents alone runs 35 pages.

But several versions of the law were debated before the law was passed, and one of those versions was 2400 pages long, or about 1.3 million words (Is Obamacare Really That Long?). The average adult reading speed is about 300 words per minute. At that rate, it would take a single congressman 57 hours to read, a married congressperson with children, much longer. Not to cross check, fact check, digest, and generate proposed changes. Just to read it, not to understand it. This recalls a joke I heard years ago:

“What do you get when you cross a lawyer with a godfather? You get an offer you can’t understand.”

But it’s now a little too real to be funny, isn’t it?

Here’s an example of a single page of the version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Obama signed. I dare you to read the whole page:

 

18 Sec. 1001\2715A PHSA PPACA (Consolidated)

‘‘(e) PREEMPTION.—The standards developed under subsection
(a) shall preempt any related State standards that require a sum-
mary of benefits and coverage that provides less information to
consumers than that required to be provided under this section, as
determined by the Secretary.
‘‘(f) FAILURE TO PROVIDE.—An entity described in subsection
(d)(3) that willfully fails to provide the information required under
this section shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 for
each such failure. Such failure with respect to each enrollee shall
constitute a separate offense for purposes of this subsection.
‘‘(g) DEVELOPMENT OF
STANDARD DEFINITIONS.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL
.—The Secretary shall, by regulation, pro-
vide for the development of standards for the definitions of
terms used in health insurance coverage, including the insur-
ance-related terms described in paragraph (2) and the medical
terms described in paragraph (3).
‘‘(2) INSURANCE-RELATED TERMS.—The insurance-related
terms described in this paragraph are premium, deductible, co-
insurance, co-payment, out-of-pocket limit, preferred provider,
non-preferred provider, out-of-network co-payments, UCR
(usual, customary and reasonable) fees, excluded services,
grievance and appeals, and such other terms as the Secretary
determines are important to define so that consumers may
compare health insurance coverage and understand the terms
of their coverage.
‘‘(3) MEDICAL TERMS.—The medical terms described in this
paragraph are hospitalization, hospital outpatient care, emer-
gency room care, physician services, prescription drug cov-
erage, durable medical equipment, home health care, skilled
nursing care, rehabilitation services, hospice services, emer-
gency medical transportation, and such other terms as the Sec-
retary determines are important to define so that consumers
may compare the medical benefits offered by health insurance
and understand the extent of those medical benefits (or excep-
tions to those benefits).
‘‘SEC. 2715A ø42 U.S.C. 300gg–15a. PROVISION OF ADDITIONAL INFOR-
MATION.‘‘
As added by section 10101(c)
A group health plan and a
health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insur-
ance coverage shall comply with the provisions of section 1311(e)(3)
of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, except that a
plan or coverage that is not offered through an Exchange shall only
be required to submit the information required to the Secretary
and the State insurance commissioner, and make such information
available to the public.
‘‘SEC. 2716 042 U.S.C. 300gg–16. PROHIBITION ON DISCRIMINATION IN
FAVOR OF HIGHLY COMPENSATED INDIVIDUALS.
Replaced by section 10101(d)
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—A group health plan (other than a self-in-
sured plan) shall satisfy the requirements of section 105(h)(2) of
the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to prohibition on dis-
crimination in favor of highly compensated individuals).
‘‘(b) RULES AND DEFINITIONS.—For purposes of this section—…

 

Fun, huh? Now multiply that content by 974, and you’ve got the idea. So, would you pore over 974 of these? Or, would you rather just pass it so you “can see what’s in it?”

This, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with the federal government. Yes, I know congressional representatives have staff. But the point is, when I could ride my bicycle to the Capitol building from my house in Asheville, NC  (45 hours – see?) before my congressperson could finish reading a single version of the bill (57 hours), that’s just too damned long, purposefully. And I do mean damned, because we’re just beginning to see what has been foisted upon us.

Something’s gotta give, folks. And it will. So do yourself a favor: stay clear of the fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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